PAEA’s annual volunteer leadership meeting took place last week across the river from Washington, DC, just as the city’s famed cherry blossoms were reaching their peak. The highly interactive week included a Board of Directors meeting, a Leadership Summit, Mission Advancement Commission (MAC) meetings, and targeted visits to congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
Board Puts Major Focus on Diversity
The PAEA Board advanced the Association’s work on several fronts during their two-day meeting, particularly on this year’s three highest priorities: hiring a new CEO, helping member programs develop a clear understanding of the proposed ARC-PA diversity standard: “Demonstrate an active commitment to attracting and retaining a diverse student and faculty population,” and developing a comprehensive plan to address the clinical sites crisis faced by many programs. The Board approved four motions:
- Authorizing staff to finalize and enter into a new seven-year agreement with Liaison International to continue operating PAEA’s central application service, CASPA. The new contract will include enhanced security measures to protect applicants’ data and increase Liaison’s contribution to the CASPA fee waiver fund.
- Approving a Board workgroup to review PAEA’s policies and procedures regarding endorsements, liaisons, and sponsorships and recommend changes. The Association receives a number of requests for endorsement of curriculum modules and other educational products, and more robust policy is needed to guide our response to such requests.
- Affirming the Board’s commitment to hire a chief diversity officer in the next budget year, FY 21, in support of the first strategic goal in our current strategic plan: Identity diversity is demonstrated and inclusive throughout PA education.
- Extending one current director at large term by one year, in order to more smoothly stagger the six director at large terms, following the bylaws change made at the 2018 business meeting to change the term of all elected Board positions to three years. Three director at large positions will now be up for election this year, in addition to the president elect and student member at large positions. (The call for nominations will go out next week.)
It’s All About Teamwork
During a half-day workshop facilitated by Integris Performance Advisors, volunteers honed their communication and team-player skills, specifically around the Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team:
- Build trust
- Engage in conflict around ideas
- Commit to decisions
- Hold each other accountable
- Focus on shared results
After being divided into groups according to their DiSC profiles, attendees discussed the value of a cohesive team as well as their own personal values. What are you most interested in? Results? Accuracy? Collaboration? Being supportive? These values all play a major role in how we make decisions and respond to situations.
Attendees also engaged in an exercise designed to help them become more aware of others’ values and communication styles and to both give and receive feedback more effectively. Participants came away with a lot of food for thought and concrete tips for improving their interactions and communication with colleagues in order to achieve positive results and desired outcomes. This work builds on the initial work done at last year’s Leadership Summit, based on The Leadership Challenge® framework recommended by the PAEA Leadership MAC.
Diversity in Higher Education
Following the DiSC workshop, Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed and a leading voice on higher education issues, gave a candid and thought-provoking talk about the lack of diversity in American colleges and universities, the role that skyrocketing tuition is playing, and the possible effects of the Harvard affirmative action lawsuit, which seems likely to end up in the Supreme Court.
“The Harvard case is the one that affirmative action opponents have been looking for,” said Jaschik. “It might change everything.” He stressed that higher education institutions need to be thinking urgently about how they will react in the event of a Supreme Court decision regarding the use of race in admissions. “The time to start having that conversation is now.”
Jaschik challenged PA programs, and especially admissions committees, to think outside the box when considering the future of higher education and how to achieve their diversity goals. He encouraged programs to talk to minority students and get their ideas.
Following his talk, Jaschik joined four leaders from the PA education community — President Elect Howard Straker, JPAE Editor in Chief Dave Asprey, Diversity & Inclusion MAC Chair Shani Fleming, and PAEA CEO Timi Agar Barwick — to participate in a “Reactor Panel.” Discussion centered around a couple of questions, including what responsibility and moral imperative do educators have to increase diversity in higher education, and what institutional support is needed to bring about meaningful change?
“As PA educators, we must recognize our biases — both conscious and unconscious — that affect admissions to our programs,” said Straker. “This means biases such as only valuing or overvaluing high grades, high standardized test scores, and course work from prestigious colleges and universities for admissions must be changed. If the goal is to develop cognitively complex clinicians, first we must feel obligated to change these practices so we can accept a diverse class.”
Connecting with Congress
The Leadership Week included a trip to Capitol Hill for 30 attendees. Following an update on key PA education policy issues from PAEA Director of Government Relations Tyler Smith, Hill Day participants were briefed by former Congressman Alan Wheat on how to talk to elected leaders and staff to get the most out of the meetings. Over the course of the morning, they fanned out to visit 57 congressional offices, including conversations with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ), Todd Young (R-IN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), as well as multiple staff aides, in a concerted effort to build support for the Physician Assistant Higher Education Modernization Act and the Physician Assistant Education Public Health Initiatives Act.
“I was initially nervous about my visit to the Hill as I have never done it before; however, having the PAEA staff with me completely alleviated my fears,” said PAEA Board Member Mike Roscoe. “I really enjoyed the visit, and felt like I made a difference and am now empowered to represent PAs in the future — both at the national as well as state level.“
Board member Dipu Patel also found the experience to be especially valuable. “To be able to champion bills that align with our collective mission and bring the voice of diversity and inclusion speaks volumes about the Association as well as our professional leadership. What an honor it was to participate!”
Sr. Director of Strategic Communications Steven Lane contributed to this article.